PREPARED BY JASPER SITWELLEdit
S.H.I.E.L.D. BRIEF: The Hand
Type: Guild of Assassins
Mission Statement: Though its roots date back to feudal Japan, the Hand stopped being a conventional ninja clan centuries ago when it was taken over by worshippers of a demonic entity they call “The Beast.” The Hand is now a feared worldwide criminal organization divided into five “fingers,” or spheres of influence, in different parts of the globe.
Affiliation: Though it has its own goals not entirely understood by the Directorate, the Hand still hires out its ninja from time-to-time to various other criminal organizations.
Base of Operations: (New York City) Shadowland, Hell’s Kitchen
Observations: “I know this intel is pretty thin soup, but Hand ninja have this annoying habit of bursting into green smoke when captured, making them difficult to interrogate.” —Jasper Sitwell
“I have searched my first edition of Bloodstone’s Taxonomy of Daemons for a more specific designation for this ‘Beast’ but have yet come up with any plausible candidates. What is certain is that the Hand’s ability to use rituals to resurrect their foes as mindless slaves evidences necromantic power of the highest -- or perhaps I should say lowest -- order.” – Dr. Stephen Strange
“Sigint captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. station houses in Tokyo, Shanghai and Madripoor indicate the Hand has been beefing recently with a rival organization calling itself ‘The Circle of Eight.’ This is the first we’re hearing of this outfit, and we don’t know whether it’s a rival assassins’ league, or another Asian cult, or both. All agents should stay on high alert for any chatter that sheds light on the nature of this group.” — Maria Hill
PROVIDED BY DOCTOR STEPHEN STRANGEEdit
THE HAND AND DORMAMMU: Monograph by Doctor Stephen Strange
(Speculative; subject to further verification and analysis)
The Hand’s sources of mystical and occult power were at one time believed to be derived from a demon known only as the Beast. Recent discoveries in the aftermath of the Pulse suggest, however, that the Hand may well be acting on behalf of the demon Dormammu.
Dormammu is well known to disguise himself to achieve objectives on Earth, and has done so for an unknown length of time (but almost certainly since before the Hand’s founding in 1588). Very little is known about the purported demon patron of the Hand, the Beast of the Snakeroot clan. If the Beast were a disguise of Dormammu’s, the Hand’s recent activities become more intelligible.
We know that the Hand have cooperated with the Maggia to acquire Iso-8-infused magical artifacts. It is further known that they have used these items in a ritual that created portals to the Dark Dimension. Further, it is believed that the Hand is sharing intelligence—and perhaps strategic objectives—with Hydra.
The outstanding data point here is the Hand’s use of portals to the Dark Dimension. There are innumerable other wellsprings of supernatural energy; this specific and intentional choice begs the question of Dormammu’s involvement—and, consequently, Dormammu’s control over the Hand. This control may or may not be known to the Hand’s leadership, including Elektra Natchios.
Much further investigation is required, but events are moving quickly enough that we have little leisure for research. Dormammu has manifested through the portals as a direct result of Hand action, and sightings of Mindless Ones in the city are further direct evidence that a passage from the Dark Dimension remains open.
At this time, I believe that the involvement of Dormammu in the activities of the Hand is highly probable. You must advise your agents to exercise with more caution than usual when dealing with them, Fury.
PREPARED BY MARIA HILLEdit
The Hand and Hydra share a history of violence, deceit, and boundless ambition for power. Hydra is a much older organization, dating back thousands of years but curiously undergoing a dormant period during the time the Hand was created and began to flourish, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Much later, during World War II, Hydra was reborn. The first members of this new cabal were drawn from the most extreme elements of the Hand, which at that time was primarily an underground organization of Japanese ultranationalists.
Wolfgang von Strucker and various fugitive Nazis took over Hydra after the war, driving Hydra away from its original focus on subverting the Japanese government. Strucker desired world domination, and developed Hydra to that end. The Hand remained a more shadowy and less well understood group, but its leaders frequently lent personnel to Hydra. Sometimes these Hand ninjas were deployed by one Hydra faction against another. After Baron Zemo of the South American Hydra faction deposed Strucker, a Hydra-Hand alliance undertook an all-out assault on SHIELD. This battle was resolved in SHIELD’s favor.
The Hand has also killed and resurrected certain individuals to provide Hydra with potent assassins. The two organizations may be entering a period of renewed cooperation in the aftermath of the Pulse. Elektra Natchios, who fought with Hydra in the abovementioned assault on SHIELD, now leads the Hand. She has worked with Viper and Hydra’s other leadership elements previously, and may be expected to do so again. In addition, former Hand assassin Gorgon has recently been part of Hydra’s leadership.
Apart from Natchios, little is known about the current makeup of the Hand’s leadership. SHIELD intelligence suggests that Hydra has influence within the Hand, and that leaders of both groups have begun cooperating with a shared goal in mind. The nature of this goal is unclear, since Hydra prefers modern methods and the Hand is beholden to the apocalyptic ends of its own religious beliefs, which revolve around its patron demon known as the Beast.
INTERNAL STRUCTURE AND DISCIPLINES OF THE HAND S.H.I.E.L.D. Internal Dossier
The ancient aspects of the Hand’s training and culture were likely lost forever with the subversion of the order by the Snakeroot clan shortly after the Hand’s founding in 1588. The Snakeroot, and their patron demon known as the Beast, imparted their own training and initiation methods. Many of these are occult, including an unknown means of dissolving a Hand ninja’s body at death. Also unknown are details of the Hand’s internal structure. A hierarchy exists, as does a leadership group, but leaders seem to be chosen and disposed of according to procedures that remain opaque.
Brief summaries of the Hand’s known internal disciplines follow.
Katana: This class is the Hand’s standard infiltrator. They are trained to fight without seeing, and the most experienced Katana-class Hand often deploy smoke in the middle of a combat. Exquisitely trained in fighting by ear, the Katana Hand strikes from within the smoke. The advantage of this ability is largely negated by close physical proximity. SHIELD combat manuals recommend fighting Katana-discipline Hand personnel with the Scrapper skill set when possible.
Naginata: This class specializes in the counterstrike and in using an opponent’s mass and momentum. They have preternatural battlefield awareness that makes it nearly impossible to corner or subdue them. In fact, they are likely to turn such an attempt into a lethal counterattack. S.H.I.E.L.D. manuals suggest that Infiltrator-class personnel are the most likely to possess the necessary close-combat control to negate the Naginata training.
Two-Sword: As its name indicates, the two-sword Hand discipline is devoted to fighting with double blades. The paragon of this class is known as the Shadow. Through an unknown means, Blood Ninjutsu taps the wounds of a bleeding enemy to replenish the Shadow’s own strength. It is not known whether the Hand’s notorious death-and-resurrection ritual is used to convey the power of Blood Ninjutsu. S.H.I.E.L.D. suggests that the best opposition to the Two-Sword is the Bruiser class’s physical mass and strength.